Pakistan’s media crisis A wave of recession or media convergence in the digital age?

Jamal Safi
A number of journalists have lost their jobs in recent days due to crisis in the media in Pakistan. But a question arises about the reasons behind this media crisis: either it is economic recession or a competition between the traditional and new media.

According to the General Secretary Peshawar Press Club (PPC) Zafar Iqbal, about 40 journalists and 60 support staff have lost jobs since September 2018 under the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government .

He said that members of the club and Khyber Union of Journalists staged protest for 2 hours every Thursday to condemn journalists’ sackings. He added that besides these symbolic measures, they have taken some practical steps about the issue and PPC gives away Rs10,000  to the members who have lost jobs.

Further, he said that they held meeting with the former information secretary Mukhtar who had agreed to release advertisements for local media houses and in return, the organisations will accommodate the journalists.

An English-language daily, The Frontier Post, recently gave jobs to some of the unemployed journalist but overall the situation is bad for the community because the government is not supporting them.

He stated that the unemployed journalists are leaving the media industry and some of journalists have even started their own businesses. “Even in some cases, the journalists are working as security guards, while only 8 to 10 journalists have been accommodated in local newspapers on less pay,” he added.

Speaking to Pukhtun Nama, Khyber Union of Journalists president Fida Khattak said the provincial assembly had passed a bill for the protection of jobs of journalists but the government failed to implement that bill.

Answering a question if the journalists have failed to update their skills in the digital media, he said that they had given 15 to 20 years to conventional media but the media house had not trained them for new media. He said it was the responsibility of media houses to update their employees with new skills required for the digital age of the modern age.

He added that they also wanted an audit of media owners because it seems that they are not in loss but still they fired many journalists in violation of the labour law.

According to former president of Peshawar Press Club Nasir Hussain, about 40 journalists have lost jobs since September 2018 under the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government.

“PTI government has come into power through the power of social media, this is why PTI leaders are undermining the role of print and electronic media now,” he added.

He said the unemployment of journalists is also due to the stoppage of recoveries of advertisement charges from the government and the diversion of government advertisements to the online media instead of conventional media.

A journalist, Safeer Ullah, who has been working in the field since 2009 and was dismissed from his job two months ago, said that the wave of unemployment started from last year.
“First, the media houses cut salaries by 20% and later they sacked me along with one cameraman, an engineer of DSNG and another reporter.

Answering the question about online media, he said theonline media was not profitable in Pakistan at the moment.

Further, he said that he had observed while attending Shandur Mela in Chitral held from July 8 to 10 that the government invited 60 journalists for coverage of the event, which included 20 conventional media persons and 40 social media activists.